Al Davis has been much on my mind since news of his death over the weekend. The heart and soul of the Oakland/LA Raiders had the soul of a pirate that personified the team logo that I hear he designed. Al Davis was an odd duck, but he did not seem that way when I shook hands with him in 1979.
I had the good fortune to find early career success with a big catalog house based in Chicago. (Not Sears. The other one.) One of my responsibilities was the “tough” duty of flying by corporate jet around the country to present the sales program for the upcoming season. I was the rookie exec traveling with seasoned colleagues who knew the right spots to visit in every region.
On that particular trip, we found ourselves having breakfast in Oakland’s Jack London Square. The restaurant was not crowded that morning, so it was easy to see the solitary man eating several tables away. Al Davis. I was the only one who seemed to recognize him. Or, perhaps I was the only one who disrespected him enough to interrupt his morning.
I introduced myself as a Washington Redskins fan who just wanted to say hello. Davis was more gracious than I had a right to expect. He asked who I was with, where I was bound next and chatted football for all of two minutes when a wee voice in my head said it was time to leave the man alone.
In a flash, I wanted to ask Al Davis for a job, anything at all, with the Raiders organization. No such person-to-person break popped up with Edward Bennett Williams who was then running the Washington Redskins. How, I wondered, could I parlay a front office gig with the Raiders to the Redskins, my real target in any such venture?
Not for nothing had I earned a M.B.A. earlier that decade. MBAs are good at calculating risk-reward ratios. That is why entrepreneurs hire MBAs, but don’t go to school to earn one. Entrepreneurs and people like Davis fly in the face of risk.
My risk-reward calculation was the response I would get from my wife when I told her “Honey, I just got a job with the Oakland Raiders for one-third of my income. It’s a great opportunity to start all over in a high-risk, low-pay, nomadic existence with killer hours, but it will be great fun (for me). Pack the baby, sell everything and lets move 2,000 miles west.”
I saw no reward for the risk of that conversation. Meh.
That whole stream of consciousness happened in the time it took to accept Davis’ offer of a handshake. I returned to my table and resumed my corporate life with no real regret. The “what if” of the moment has never left me.
Years later, after writing a Hog Heaven post about JaMarcus Russell, I got an email from Al Davis with a correction of my spelling of “JaMarcus.” This had to be a gag, right? Yet, there couldn’t be two people with the email id aldavis at oaklandraiders dot com, could there?
I thanked the sender for the correction and for reading my post. Then, I reminded him that we met many years before at Jack London Square. No response.
Maybe he remembered me after all.
Good-bye, Al. Just win, baby, where ever you are.